The John Seymour School for Self Sufficiency

  Season's over in the Christon Bank garden - Course dates for 2015 will be published after Christmas.
The harvesting is over now.     A good weight of potatoes - delicious waxy pink fir apples and fluffy Maris Piper, more than 10kg of sweet parsnips and dozens of bags of blanched beans, peas and carrots.      It took more than 3 hours to peel, slice and blanch the parsnips - bagging them up for the deep freeze.    People often forget how long it takes to process your harvest in the kitchen - it can be more arduous than the cultivation and weeding!
Winter GardenYoung artichokes
Here is the "winter garden" as we harvest and rotavate before the winter.      You can also see how much the young artichokes have grown since spring!

The greenhouse takes shape
Building work now continues on the greenhouse for next season.    The concrete slab has now been laid to serve as the floor in the eastern end.   This will be used for teaching and storage.     We now press on with the main brickwork - the young vine has done well this year and should produce its first crop next summer.
Greenhouse
 

Courses in 2015 - All our scheduled course have now finished for the time being.     Please keep an eye on the website for dates for next year.

  In 2015 our courses moved to the beautiful coast of north Northumberland where we have begun the renovation of a fine old Victorian kitchen garden at Christon Bank.    The renovation work provides an unusual opportunity for our students to be involved in the development of the garden infrastructure and planning.     It's many years since the garden was in full use but the site is lucky enough to have a massively high brick wall along its east and north sides.    The wall was built from the dutch bricks which were used as ballast by coal ships from Newcastle in the nineteenth century.  

The Christon Bank farmhouse has been lovingly restored by the Gilbert family and now includes a pond and wildflower meadow.

The wildflower meadow

The kitchen garden lies on the north side (to the left of the picture).     The soil is a heavy well drained loam with few nasty weeds - no creeping buttercup or couch, just a few nettles.    The biggest challenge was digging out a few very old tree stumps whose roots have gone under the walls.   You can see the massive (recently re-pointed) south facing wall which will give the garden such a beneficial micro-climate.  

Sunflower at CB

  This is the garden at the end of August.   The runner beans are poised to deliver!   So far we have harvested:
Potatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, rocket, beetroot, dill, spinach, shallots, peas, carrots, herbs, parsnips.     Damage so far has come from the teeth of mice or rabbits!   White butterfly catterpillars are raiding the sprouting broccoli but few escape my daily patrols - only another few weeks now before their season comes to an end and the battle against the winter pigeons begins!    

The School

Will Sutherland has run self-sufficiency courses for almost 20 years, teaching the methods and philosophy developed by John Seymour.     Will worked for over 10 years with John Seymour in Ireland and, with John, created the New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency published by Dorling Kindersley.   In 2010 we took our courses to the wine growing region near Bordeaux where the warm weather, swimming pool and excellent local wine made a nice change from the cooler climes of Ireland.    Now we are moving back to cooler climes to take up the challenge of re-creating a classic old kitchen garden.  



What our students said:

“Thank you so much: we really enjoyed the course and found it VERY interesting and helpful. And what a beautiful place in which to do it”

“Thank you for a wonderful holiday. The food has been amazing and we have really enjoyed the Class. You have a beautiful place here.”

Such great people. Such strong spirits. Great to know you guys!'

“The training and experience at St Leger was the best birthday present I could have had. Your book and your work have opened up for us a better way to enjoy life in harmony with the land and nature.”

Lots of Good Food - The students who came last year were mightily impressed with the St Leger meals they enjoyed and suggested we put the week's menu up on the website.      Good food and good conversation are important features for all those looking for a more self-sufficient and satisfying style of life!

Sunday - dinner        Asparagus tips with garlic butter sauce
                                  Slow cooked beef in red wine with onions, mushrooms and carrots with mashed potatoes and broccoli
                                  Apple crumble
                                  French cheeses
Monday - lunch        Cheese, newly baked bread and salad
Monday - dinner       Globe artichokes with butter sauce
                                  Salmon and haddock fish pie with salad
                                  French cheeses and grapes

Vegetarian options provided.    Meals are served with home made beer including ginger beer!